The government now expects to slash emissions by 65 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, going further than the current goal of a 55 percent reduction, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said at a press conference in Berlin.
The cut will reach 88 percent by 2040, with the goal of bringing Germany to carbon neutrality by 2045, five years earlier than previously expected,
“We want to make our goals more precise,” Scholz said, adding that the “ambitious but achievable” reform would be reviewed by the cabinet next week.
The move comes after Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled last Thursday that the current national emissions targets did not set a clear enough timeline for reductions beyond 2030.
The current climate protection law risked to “irreversibly offload major emission reduction burdens” onto the period after 2030, thereby “violating the freedoms” of future generations, the court said.
It ordered an improved plan to be put forward by December 2022.
The government’s accelerated action came as environmental issues are fast becoming a flashpoint in key battleground in September elections.
For the first time, both Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and her coalition partner social democrats are feeling the heat from the ecologist Greens.
Buoyed in part by the youth movement Fridays for Future school strikes, the Greens are leading popularity surveys less than five months before the polls.
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Under pressure to show it is taking environmental issues seriously ahead of September’s general election, Merkel’s outgoing right-left coalition government has said it aimed to revise its climate targets before the end of its term.
“The constitutional court ruling has put wind in the sails of climate protection,” said Environment Minister Svenja Schulze at Wednesday’s press conference.
The new targets were “a fair offer to younger generations” who would now “not carry the biggest burden”, she said.
She added that there was now “a race to the top” in terms of environmental policy.
“The debate is no longer about whether we should do something, it is about who has the best ideas,” she said.
Speaking at a parallel event in Berlin on Wednesday, Merkel said that “young people have reminded us that we are going too slowly rather than too quickly” on climate change issues.
The constitutional court ruling “has told us: you can’t just have freedoms for the generations alive today, you must also think about the freedoms of future generations”, Merkel said.
“This is a new legal perspective that could have many consequences and impresses upon us that we must do more.”
By Kit Holden